Tresha Moreland has over 30 years of experience in HR leadership, serving as CHRO for a slew of big-name organizations. Tresha defines ‘meaningful workplaces’ for us before giving us an in-depth analysis of what it means to be a workforce planning specialist. It is better to have a holistic approach to workforce planning and Tresha tells us how it could be beneficial to delegate important conversations, how to go about doing it, and laying out the importance of having a mentorship program. We finish off with an educational conversation about creating a culture of great communication and good practices in the workplace, highlighting the importance of knowing your employee’s hearts and minds before they hand in their resignation.
[00:00:05] RS: Welcome to Talk Talent To Me, a podcast featuring the most elite talent leaders on the frontlines of modern recruitment.
[00:00:12] SPEAKER 1: We actually want to understand the themes of someone’s life. We want to understand how they make decisions. Are they willing to take risks? And what it looks like when they fail.
[00:00:22] RS: No holds barred, completely off-the-cuff interviews, with directors of recruitment, VPS of global talent, CHROs and everyone in between.
[00:00:31] SPEAKER 2: Once I went through the classes and the trainings and got the certifications through diversity and inclusion, I still felt like something was missing.
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[00:00:52] RS: I’m your host, Rob Stevenson and you’re about to hear the best in the biz. Talk Talent To Me.
[00:00:59] RS: Talking talent with me today is a fantastic woman who has 30 plus years of experience in HR leadership space. She has served as a CHRO for companies like Dameron Hospital Association, as well as Trinity Health, a slew of other organizations. Now, she is consulting people leadership for high-growth companies. Tresha Moreland, welcome to the podcast. How are you today?
[00:01:19] TM: Good. Thank you so much, Rob. It’s my pleasure to join you today.
[00:01:23] RS: I’m so glad you’re here as well. I do feel like just seeing, “Now, she’s consulting people leadership” is maybe an unfair reduction of the scope of your current role. How would you describe what you do in case I hamstrung it there a little bit?
[00:01:36] TM: Oh, yes. No worries at all. Today, I’m a consultant. Today, I’m helping teams adapt so that leaders can deliver on results. At the beginning of the pandemic, I observed so many shifts going on in the workplace, even at a more accelerated pace than we’ve ever seen before. It seemed like a great place for me to segue from a corporate role. And instead, now, I’m out there partnering with leaders, and coaching teams across the nation.
[00:02:05] RS: The consulting gig is a seductive one, I think. People come down on, in all sorts of ways, on when you should do it, for how long you should do it, under what circumstances. For you personally, why did you want to shift from the internal role to sort of consulting approach?
[00:02:23] TM: Well, because you know, I’m in a place now after 30 years, where I’ve seen now, I want to make a bigger difference. I mean, I did before. I impacted lives, even as a CHRO. But I see now, in a time where we’re really entering into a new era of business, I want to be a part of that, and really lead the way with partnering with leaders across the nation. I feel like it can make a bigger difference. I will tell you, I’m among millions of other workforce members. I’m among millions of other workforce members who are now reassessing their priorities. We’ve saw through the pandemic that life is short. We knew that intuitively, but now we’re seeing it firsthand and many of us have lost family members, and pets and all of that over the last two years. I’m among those that have as well.
With that, I’ve reassessed my priorities and I see now that I want to make a bigger difference in the world. I want to be a part of something where I’m making an impact and having some meaning or purpose that goes beyond just the daily grind. I know, I’m echoing what millions of people are saying and voting by their feet to the great resignation. They’re wanting to make a bigger difference. They want to be a part of something bigger than themselves and I’m a part of that number as well.
[00:03:40] RS: I’m so pleased to hear that. The great resignation, I think I unfairly characterized it as like a proletariat sort of movement. Then here you are as a CHRO, and you’re like, you know what, it affects me too, the same economic circumstances and realities of our life. They affected you the same. You were a part of that. You were like, “You know what, I don’t want this internal role anymore.” For you, it sounds like your motivation shifted. You feel as though you can have more impact consulting. Is that because you get to touch just more organizations?
[00:04:09] TM: More organizations, different levels of organizations as far as industry or where they’re at in their maturity. I can impact more lives, if you will, by providing meaningful workspaces for them and really step into the gap of where workforce sees that there’s a miss. I feel like I can make the bigger impact in many different levels.
[00:04:32] RS: What do you mean when you say meaningful workplaces?
[00:04:35] TM: That’s a great question. I mean, meaningful purpose, where people are filling like how I’ve tipped it before is, people are looking for purpose over popcorn. They want to be a part of something where they’re making a difference, something bigger than themselves. Of course, they want to take care of their families in a meaningful way. They no longer want to be tied to the multiple hours of work. They want to be able to schedule their day around what matters to them the most. There’s a lot of dynamic around that that’s going on. To answer the question, meaningful workplace? Well, it depends and it depends on how each talented member of our workforces define it for themselves.
[00:05:18] RS: For you, I’m sure there’s lots of different challenges clients bring to you. How would you characterize the scope of your offering? Not that you’re like pitching your services, or peddling your wares. But if you were just to say, “Hey! Here’s, the value I can add to your organization.” What does that sound like?
[00:05:35] TM: Well, the strategic workforce planning is one of those key deliverables that I provide. I’ve seen lots of clients. They view workforce planning as something that they would relegate to one individual, if they had any idea or had any concept of it in their workplace in the first place. They are now, as a result, finding that they’re either surprised, and I’m thinking, we’re all feeling burned from surprises these days. I don’t know about you, Rob. But I’m not liking surprises much anymore. I’m pretty sure leaders and HR professionals throughout the nation are feeling the same way.
One of the offerings I have is helping guiding leaders through what workforce planning is, what it looks like for their organization, and how they can leverage that concept in a way that will help them prepare for trends that are happening, help them develop proactive plans, let’s say on addressing skill and hiring needs. Not just for today, which is reactionary, but also for tomorrow, and what that looks like for the organization. I will tell you, I’m a workforce planning specialist and I’m a data nerd, I tell people. I really love to dive into demographic information, trends information, migration trends, and things like that, and then see how to leverage that information in a way that helps businesses thrive no matter what’s happening around us.
[00:07:03] RS: Workforce planning, to me, perhaps because I’m a naive marketer and not an HR professional, it seems a little bit nebulous. It seems like one of those things where it’s just a giant umbrella to put over a load of activities like recruitment marketing, for example, where it’s just like, people know they need to do it. I guess, just to start out, how would you define workforce planning? What does it mean?
[00:07:26] TM: Yeah. That’s how a lot of people view it. It’s something nebulous, just like culture. If you want to define culture, it’s also nebulous or in a lot of folk’s minds. Workforce planning, just to put it in a simple form, it’s a way of pulling the future into the present. Okay. It’s a formal process that proactively anticipates current, and future skill and hiring needs, that an organization may need both today and tomorrow. Essentially, it’s having the right skills in the right place at the right time. It’s a very complex approach. It can be just busy work if an organization isn’t really approaching it from a holistic perspective. I like to coach my clients into a holistic approach of workforce planning. It has more of an impact for them, versus just busy work or checklist item. Meaning, I like to pull together cross-functional teams. It’s not just relegated to one individual in which we run the risk of making decisions in a vacuum. We have more of a cross-functional team in the room, essentially discussing workforce needs, what our workforce even looks like, defining it.
Then, also understanding what direction, strategically, is the organization heading, understanding our gaps. Do we have the skills to even adopt what a new service line or a new product we want to develop and sell? That is where that workforce planning comes into place. It’s even more effective when you got a cross-functional team in the room, because then, that’s where it makes more sense to everybody, all the decision-makers, and they see the benefit of what a workforce planning strategy means for the organization.
[00:09:13] RS: What would go into a holistic approach?
[00:09:18] TM: Well, a holistic approach is, like with my clients, I like to see them work as a team when it comes to this concept. Meaning, identifying all key players so it could be cross-functional. Meaning, we would have a kickoff meeting and a discussion meeting where we have identified key players in the organization. HR is one of them, of course, but so is finance, so is operation leaders, so is marketing, potentially. They know what’s happening with the customers. It’s kind of important that we understand what’s happening with customers, if there’s changes in their tastes, for example, and we need to address a new product, or introduce a new product to meet consumer needs. We are also going to need the skills to be able to meet those consumer needs.
A holistic approach is where it’s really more of an organizational approach, not relegated to just one department, or it’s just a job description somewhere where somebody looks at data, and then sends reports to people. It’s part of a strategic planning process of the organization.
[00:10:25] RS: Okay, that makes sense, because it seems like headcount growth and hiring can sometimes happen in these fragmented ways. Because headcount is a little bit of a vanity metric. And of course, every hiring manager wants to make hires because you want to be able to say, “I have more resources on my team and you have these individual goals.” And you’re like, “Oh! It will be easier for everyone on my team, if we have more people.” Is that aligned with really a high-level business goal? I’m not sure it always is. I think it just sort of happens and I think it’s like, “Oh! We’ll give so and so this much budget.” I don’t know. It doesn’t seem like it’s always done mindfully in terms of what are the high-level goals of the business. Is that kind of what you’re pushing people towards?
[00:11:05] TM: Yes. I’ll give you an example of how just having a headcount doesn’t matter, especially when you’ve got a workforce trend coming.
I worked as a leader for a healthcare organization in California, and I was receiving in that HR department a sudden uptick of retirement requests coming in. I’m a curious individual, I love to understand what’s going on, what’s the workforce look like. I mean, do we really know what the Joe’s and the Susie’s, what their plans are in the future? I started doing what I do best, which is looking at the data. I did an analysis of retirements, potential. Meaning, looking at the workforce and seeing of those, how many are going to be within retirement age within one, two, five years, ten years? I was shocked. I’m telling you, I was shocked to find a critical department in that hospital, which is the nuclear medicine department.
Now, that’s the department that is critical. They provide analysis and research for physicians so that they can diagnose and help patients. It’s a very critical department. I found through my study, that all of the nuclear med techs, all of them, there were a dozen of them, were all going to be within retirement age within two years, 100% of them. I picked up the phone and call the director and say, “Hey! Just wondering what your plan is for your team. I mean, surely you got a plan to internships.”
[00:12:41] RS: Surely…
[00:12:42] TM: Surel. He didn’t have a plan. In fact, he even added, he laughed, he goes, “Oh, Tresha. They all started at the same time, they became friends. Yeah, they’re all planning to retire. I mean, they go to each other’s reunions, their families are tight.” Then as he was talking, he stops. He goes, “Oh, no.” I’m like, “Okay. So let’s sit down and have a plan. Let’s talk about a plan on what we’re going to do to build pipeline, a mentoring team, partnering with universities.” Because, I will tell you, nuclear med techs, they don’t line up at the door waiting to apply. They don’t. You have to go find them, and you got to develop them and those sorts of things. We developed the plan and averted disaster. He had a headcount, he was fine, he was fully staffed. But in two years, not so much. That’s where workforce planning comes in.
[00:13:33] RS: This is an interesting one, this notion of retirement planning, because the baby boomer generation is getting there, right? But it’s a slippery conversation to have that you can’t exactly sit someone down and be like, “Hey! When are you going to hang up the boots here and go retire to Florida or whatever?”
Do you have those conversations, though? Because you can sort of at a high level understand, okay, within the next four to ten years, we expect these folks to be winding down their careers, right. But that’s a huge window. Can you expect the person who you want to take their place to hang around for an uncertain amount of time just waiting for them to retire? On a high level, I can see how you could start to succession plan, but at a certain point, you have to draw a line in the sand, right? How do you actually be specific?
[00:14:19] TM: Well, and yes, you’re spot on about that. I’ve had to have these conversations with leaders too. Before I even share data with them, I do give them that caveat look at, “When I’m telling you about your workforce, and who’s about ready to retire, this is not an invitation for you to go tap people on the shoulder and invite them to go retire, that’s illegal. The point of this is really to give us a more proactive approach to planning, if in the event they retire on their own, on their own regard.”
With that, then there are lots of strategies such as partnering with universities, building internship programs. It’s a journey. It’s not a checklist. It’s a journey for people, so they’re not going to be ready tomorrow to step in place, but they got to learn the ropes. They can begin to partner with those that have been in the position for decades, potentially, and learn a wealth of information that they’re not going to learn in a textbook and things like that.
There are formal programs which you could put in place that enables a good transition period, and it allows a good communication. Sure, people don’t really last through those programs all the time. Because then things happen, life happens, right? Even students, maybe their family’s relocating they’re going with. Or things like that happen. But to have a good solid program, like a mentorship program really helps that process. It gives those that have been in the position for so long, a sense of pride, because they’re mentoring somebody, they’re feeling like they’re leaving a legacy that they normally wouldn’t have if they just retired tomorrow, and then all their information went out and that’s it. They’re actually – it’s inviting them to leave a legacy.
[00:16:00] RS: Interesting. Okay. You frame it more as like, “Hey! Let’s document some of your institutional knowledge. Let’s use all of your expertise and experience to help other folks in our organization who want to be like you when they grow up”, right? Of course, it’s illegal to be like, “Hey! When are you going to retire?” But surely, you have to have some kind of conversation like that or you have to sit these folks down and be like, “Hey! What are you thinking? How many more years do you want to work?” We still want you here, you’re still performing at a high level. However, we understand that statistically, you might be thinking about it.
I mean, this is clunky. But surely, you would want to actually approach that conversation without just saying, “Let’s have you do mentorship.” You would be explicit about like, “Hey! This is what we’re doing.”
[00:16:39] TM: Yeah. It takes a savvy leader to be able to have that conversation in a way that’s not offensive. I would identify mature leaders in the organization that can have that conversation first, because we have some that aren’t so mature yet, and they may not handle that conversation delicately. Identifying a good team of people, a team of leaders that can have that conversation carefully with dignity, and then letting these people know that, “Look, we value you so much. We would love for everybody stick around forever. But we know that, just life is, and especially through the pandemic, we’ve learned that life is short. We want to just be proactive. We’d love to involve you in that process and help us develop a plan to be able to have talent be able to step in the door for those days when folks like you are ready to retire”, let’s say. Involving them in the planning, involving them in the solution is always a good idea.
[00:17:40] RS: Yeah, and it’s a good call out that it’s not necessarily going to be the people leader or the HR leader who has that conversation. It could be, if they have that rapport and they have that level of tact, I’m just speaking to the talent folks out there, like, “Hey! You can loop in someone else from the org who is more suited for that conversation, even if you surface the notion of workforce planning and succession planning.” It doesn’t have to be you having every single conversation.
[00:18:07] TM: Right. Just even setting aside that for a minute, I’ve been able to learn that I’ve learned a lot from the organization by also just talking with frontline leaders, because they know their staff. I mean, they know their staff. I’ve learned so much, oftentimes not good stuff, sometimes very good things from just the frontline leader. Even having a sit-down conversation with the frontline leader is okay. Hey, how’s your workforce? Having that workforce planning discussion with them and saying, “Hey! We want to assess your skill level. We want to make sure that we’re always ready to make sure that we have great talented people ready to step in should somebody leave. We want to sit down with you to get your perspective on what’s happening with your workforce. I mean, are there plans? Are you hearing people talk about leaving for whatever reason? Can you give the reasons?”
Just having those kinds of open-ended conversations with those frontline leaders, you’d be surprised what you can learn. Like I said, some are good, some not so good. But at least you’re not surprised, right? We get back to not wanting to be surprised? Well, there’s a great opportunity for you to just learn all over what’s happening in your workforce is straight from those frontline leaders.
[00:19:17] RS: It’s really, we don’t need to reinvent the wheel here. This is just getting to know your organization really well and treat it as like this living, breathing organism. As some of those conversations, your information is power, and it strikes me that it would be even more challenging to solicit that information in a remote world, because a lot of that can happen in an ad hoc way, where you didn’t schedule a meeting, you’re just getting to know people, you’re sort of occupying the same space and you create that community.
Has that been a challenge? How do you make sure you get that understanding, in a world where every conversation is scheduled and lasts for exactly 30 minutes?
[00:19:52] TM: Well, that’s a cultural question too, I think. It depends on each company and how they have set up their communication as a matter of how they do business. Like I said, it’s a cultural decision or a cultural reality for each organization.
We’ll give you another example where I saw, through the pandemic, where communication wasn’t really handled well. This will tell you, this relates back to workforce planning discussion. If you just bring it on leaders for the first time, without really giving them an idea of where your goal or where you’re going. Or even if it’s not even part of your culture, then you’re going to really shock leaders too. They may even be suspicious, there might be some trust issues and things like that. But if it’s part of the culture already, that we want to be proactive, we want to be transparent, we want to be in a position where we’re always resilient and have the ability to adjust our ways to address whatever happens, whatever comes down the pike comes down the road at us. We’re ready.
If that’s part of the culture, that’s great. If it’s not, and you’re spraying it on people, then you’re going to have some trust issues you got to work on. I will give you an example where I saw—stay interviews, it’s a best practice, definitely proactive. If you’re rounding and talking with staff regularly and asking them questions, you get a sense of who might be thinking about leaving, who’s thinking about staying, and why and what’s important to them in the organization. It’s a great practice. But what I saw during the pandemic, especially right at the beginning of the great resignation, I was seeing stories of leaders running out of their office with a list of questions at their staff. “I got to ask you these questions.”
[00:21:33] RS: Right. They’re conducting a survey, instead of having a conversation.
[00:21:36] TM: Yeah. I’m telling you, it’s too late right then. Suddenly, that best practice isn’t one, because the staff already sees, they see everything and they’re smart. We hire smart people. They see through scripts, they see through leadership speak, and actions, and steps, especially if it’s not part of the culture to begin with. When times are good, you’re engaged in great practices. So that way, when things are bad, and you’re still consistently practicing good behaviors, good practices, then it’s seen as part of the culture versus – yeah, it’s too late. I don’t –
[00:22:11] RS: A reactionary panic.
[00:22:12] TM: Yeah, it’s a reactionary panic. Then, I even saw where some employees were laughing. I’ve never seen my boss before, and suddenly they came at me with a list of questions, so that’s not good. That’s not good. Chances are, you’re not going to get really good authentic answers either to those questions in that type of scenario.
[00:22:32] RS: Yeah. That’s such a funny call out. You clearly know something’s a miss if, “Oh, I’ve never seen my boss’s boss before.” All of a sudden, they’re really, really interested in my thoughts. Okay. What’s this about?
[00:22:43] TM: Yeah. That’s right.
[00:22:44] RS: It’s also, in times with peace, prepare for war. If you get to this point where you’re afraid people are about to—like one foot out the door is two foot out the door, frankly. Because whatever has one foot out the door is, there’s an organizational ill that they just haven’t made the full jump on. So that the stay interview, I am not sure I’ve heard of that before, I’m guessing from context, it just means it’s exactly in between the ‘you’re hired’ part of the interview and the exit interview. Is it just like, “Let’s have a check in,” like a retention play? What does that normally look and sound like?
[00:23:17] TM: Yes, it is a retention play when done well. After the hire, several months after the hire, or it could be several years after the hire, you may have long-term employees. But what it is, is just really getting a sense from them on how do they feel about working here today. In simplistic form, is really getting to what’s on the hearts and minds of your people. Before, they give that resignation.
[00:23:43] RS: What kind of questions would you ask in the stay interview?
[00:23:46] TM: Well, I’ve asked questions such as, what makes you excited about coming into work every day? What’s going well? What’s not going well? If you were CEO for the day, and you can make one change, what would that be?
[00:24:00] RS: Oh, I love that question.
[00:24:01] TM: Yes. They usually have lots of answers for that one.
[00:24:05] RS: Yeah, what do people say? Bring back the Kombucha tap, yeah.
[00:24:10] TM: I would fire so and so. I would—
[00:24:13] RS: Oh, brutal.
[00:24:14] TM: Yeah. There are some brutal ones, but then others are, a lot of them have to do with benefits, and how does compensation work out and understand how compensation works better. Just a lot of things like that around benefits and comp.
[00:24:26] RS: I love that question, too, in any capacity, not just a stay interview. Because that really tells you if someone’s suited for leadership, frankly. If they have a very measured nuanced answer to that question. Like look, I really think the direction of the company is this. I think we’re lacking in this area. That really exhibits leadership if they answer the question in a thoughtful manner.
[00:24:45] TM: Yes, agreed. Absolutely.
[00:24:48] RS: Well, Tresha, we are creeping up on optimal podcast length here. I don’t want to let you go just yet though. Because you have insight into lots of different organizations, you have experienced leadership at the top levels yourself. So, what advice would you give it to folks out there forging career in recruitment talent and HR who want to wind up with a similar trajectory as yours?
[00:25:07] TM: I would look at organizational values compared to your own, especially now, even HR people. What’s not being talked about frequently in the great resignation, that includes HR people and leaders, I mean, they’re quitting by the droves as well, because of burnout, because of exhaustion, because of look, I want to go do something else for a change. They’re in crisis fatigue and things like that. If we were to go back in time, maybe looking at values and how they align with yours would be the first stop. I mean, ask yourself, who is you? What makes up you? What makes you excited? Then go from there as far as identifying organizations that can support or aligned with your values, because I will tell you, I’ve worked for organizations, the values changed over time, and then I could feel myself getting burned out.
For me, transparency is important. I saw transparency becoming less important for one particular organization. After a while I got burned out, because, then impacts HR in a big way. As far as how we communicate, we take the brunt of employee complaints and information. If they’re not feeling involved, they quit and then HR gets seen as at fault, maybe for not retaining people in some of those organizations that are I would say, are immature. What you want to do, getting into the career, take a look at your values and what makes you tick, and then look for organizations that might align and support you in that way.
Then, I would look for ways to build on the skill levels. If you’re starting out as, let’s say, a payroll individual or a specialist, find ways to pick up projects over time and build on your cash of experience. Then from there, you’ll learn to what you’d like. I mean, for me, I started out as a specialist in HR, but then I found myself getting bored. I liked a variety of different things and doing different things during the day. I learned that I wanted to be a generalist. Then from there, my career blossomed, because I was excited. I can learn different things, do different things per the minute. Sometimes there’s no two minutes the same, let alone no two days the same. But for me, that was exciting.
[00:27:22] RS: Yeah. That’s fantastic advice. It’s alleviating cognitive dissonance, right? If you experience cognitive dissonance when you are at work, you will not do your best work and you will either burn out or you will get fired, or you will just become resentful. You will do a worse job until you just—it’s no way to bring yourself to work or try to do your best work. I think that’s fantastic advice. This episode’s been full of fantastic advice, Tresha. I’ve loved chatting with you today. Thank you so much for being here. I love this episode.
[00:27:51] TM: You’re welcome. Thank you. It’s my pleasure to be here. Thank you for the invitation.
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